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Juggalos descend on D.C. to fight FBI gang distinction

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Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY
Published 12:22 p.m. ET Sept. 16, 2017 | Updated 4:27 p.m. ET Sept. 16, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Followers of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse — known as Juggalos — held a march Saturday on the National Mall, alleging discrimination after the FBI labeled the group a gang in a 2011 report.

“We’re different. We’re not dangerous,” Kevin Gill, who is an announcer for a Juggalo wrestling league, said from the rally stage. “Music is not a crime.”

The band, consisting of the duo Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, said the gang accusation “has resulted in hundreds if not thousands of people subjected to various forms of discrimination, harassment, and profiling simply for identifying as a Juggalo.” In a video on the their website, the hip-hop artists claim their fans have lost jobs, custody of their children and been denied access to the military for their Juggalo affiliation.

Alesia Modglin, a pizza delivery worker from southwest Missouri, said she felt compelled to drive to D.C. to protest the FBI’s classification. She said the group draws in young people who grew up in troubled homes.

“It’s a family … Everybody loves each other,” said Modglin, who came to the nation’s capital with her husband, two toddlers, and several other family members. She said some of the band’s songs are “demonic, but there are hidden messages of a peaceful place.”

Best of all, she said, there’s “no judgment.”

Juggalos are known for displaying the band’s symbol, a man running with a hatchet, and the signature white-and-black face paint. The FBI placed Juggalos on the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment following reports of crimes committed by people with Juggalo tattoos and clothing. Federal officials estimate there are more than one million Juggalos in the U.S.

Fonz Tobin, a 25-year-old from Albuquerque, N.M., said the FBI’s classification was ridiculous.

Fonz Tobin, 25, from Albuquerque, N.M., holds up a sign in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, as he joins other supporters of the rap group Insane Clown Posse, during a rally on Sept. 16, 2017. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

“We’re painting our faces and clowning around,” said Tobin, who joined the Juggalo when he was 13.

“I had no place to live. I had no food in my stomach,” he said. “The people who took me in were the Juggalo … They pulled me into their family.”

He said he works at Target and is trying to do film production on the side. “Am I out there dealing drugs? Am I out there shooting people up?” he said. “No. I have a job.”

Earlier Saturday in a separate gathering, hundreds of pro-Trump activists rallied on the National Mall in what they said was a show of American patriotism and celebration.

“We’re here to support our president and this country,” said Sue Babinec, who traveled to Washington from Cincinnati for what organizers dubbed the “Mother of All Rallies.”

U.S. Park Police braced for a crowd of as many as 3,000 people. As the event opened, there were perhaps only 1,000 people gathered just north of the Washington Monument.

If the crowd lacked the projected strength, they made up for it in show, with many participants decked out in pro-Trump garb and carrying American flags.

“As soon as they announced it, I knew I had to be here,” said Dana Robinson, of Pittsburgh, as she weaved her way through the crowd in patchwork dress of Trump photos.

Trump is “one of us she said,” Robinson said. “He’s an every man’s president … He’s doing great with no help from any of the Republicans.”

A handful of Republican candidates also made their way to the stage, rallying the crowd with their Trump-style political pitches. “Everywhere you turn there are stumbling blocks to success,” said Bruce Nathan, a GOP candidate for governor of Florida, “put there by the federal government.”

Meanwhile, Matthew Murguia, 52, from the Washington suburbs, arrived with a sign that said “Mexico will pay for impeachment hearings.” Murguia said he came to the rally to “remind these people that their president, my president, is a liar.”

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The pro-Trump rally was peaceful but not without some skirmishes. A few counter protesters tried to interact with the Trump supporters, and they were met in at least one case by a swarm of camouflage-clad militia rally-goers. The park police quickly intervened and broke up the confrontation.

The Juggalo rally began with a series of testimonials from people who said they had their children taken from them or lost their jobs, among other incidents, because they had Juggalo tattoos or attended Juggalo concerts.

“No one will hire me because of the music I listen to,” Jessica Bonometti told the crowd. She said she’d been fired from her job as a parole officer in Virginia because of her Juggalo association.

Farris Haddad, a lawyer for the Juggalos, said the group was in D.C. “to clear our name!” He said the FBI would be a laughing stock if they tried to blacklist other music fans like punk rockers or Grateful Dead fans. 

“No big deal America, it’s only juggalos right?” But “who’s next?”  Haddad asked.

More: This is why the Juggalos are marching on Washington

Contributing: Sean Rossman

 

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